Leeds United's Pablo Hernandez travels to Preston but doubts remain over Deepdale selection
Pablo Hernandez made the trip to Preston North End with Leeds United’s squad last night but Marcelo Bielsa vowed not to risk the midfielder if doubts persisted about his injured ankle.
Bielsa said he was ready to sideline Hernandez should the playmaker fail to fully recover from a knock suffered at Birmingham City on Saturday, irrespective of a tense automatic promotion battle.
Hernandez is yet to be ruled out of tonight’s clash at Deepdale and was part of the travelling squad yesterday but he left St Andrews with one foot in a medical boot and has undergone treatment over the past 48 hours.
Kemar Roofe is on standby to replace Hernandez on the right wing and Bielsa confirmed that top-scorer Roofe would make his first start in two months if Hernandez drops out of United’s starting line-up.
The Spaniard has been an inspired presence in Bielsa’s team this season, contributing to 23 goals and setting the tone in a team who are in the final throes of a frantatic fight for automatic promotion.
Leeds slipped out of the top two and behind Sheffield United after losing 1-0 at Birmingham but Bielsa said the state of the league table and the dwindling number of remaining fixtures would not tempt him to gamble on Hernandez’s fitness.
Bielsa said: “There’s a possibility that Pablo can’t play the game. Roofe will go in his position if Pablo can’t play.
“He received a kick in the last minute of the previous game. It’s looking positive but we aren’t going to take any risks if him playing makes his injury worse.”
Roofe came on as a second-half substitute at Birmingham, the first time he has played since injuring a knee in a 2-0 win over Swansea City in February, and Bielsa is preparing turn to him as back-up for Hernandez.
“He (Roofe) had a lot of time without playing and the minutes he had at Birmingham were minutes without much space to play in,” Bielsa said.
“To improve his performance level he has to play. We can’t verify his level in training but he’s done a lot of work to come back in very good physical condition.”
Second position in the Championship has switched between Leeds and Sheffield United three times in the space of three weeks and the Blades hold a one-point advantage with six matches left.
Norwich City look destined for the title having stretched seven points clear after a 4-0 thrashing of Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Bielsa, who is close to the end of his first year in charge at Elland Road, said: "The desire to be in first or second position, it's a very high motivation because it's the objective of one year of work.
“In the last part of the season we want to solve this situation. Our motivation is high.”